Old Waterways of New Orleans: The Carondelet and New Basin Canals

Oyster luggers on Bayou St. John, a postcard from a booklet entitled “Souvenir of New Orleans- The City That Care Forgot” (Robert W. Grafton & L. O. Griffith, 1917). Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Walking around New Orleans gives one ample opportunity to imagine, if they wish, numerous streets, parks, and courtyards as they were a century or more ago. When I am walking along Rampart Street, however, I find it nearly impossible to imagine passing not one, but two busy inland harbors that have since been filled in and paved over. Crucial to New Orleans’ growth during their respective peaks, the city’s historic transportation canals have left few reminders of their presence, so, to take up the slack, here is my own:

When Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville sited the city of New Orleans in 1718, the location he and his expedition selected was strategic not only because of its location on the Mississippi River, but also because of the site’s communication with the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Pontchartrain via the Rigolets. Bayou St. John, at the swampy back of the river’s natural levees, provided not just a convenient shortcut to the gulf for smaller ships, but also allowed for direct commerce with other parts of the colony. This connection to the lake was key to the growth of New Orleans, and the construction of the Carondelet and New Basin Canals are evidence of the importance of Lake Pontchartrain in the city’s commerce.

           The Creole Canal

For the first decades of the colony, an Indian footpath offered early New Orleanians access to the banks of Bayou St. John, but as early as 1721 engineers were making plans to better exploit the commercial potential of the waterway. However, as with many other advancements in the history of New Orleans, work did not begin on the project until the Spanish era. In 1794, Governor Hector Carondelet ordered the excavation of a canal, bordered with a shaded walking promenade, to run from the city’s old rampart to Bayou St. John. Completed in 1796, the Carondelet Canal improved shipping access between New Orleans and points reachable by small craft across the lake and down the coast by way of the Mississippi Sound.

The turning basin for the Carondelet Canal at the turn of the twentieth century. Basin Street takes its name from this historic harbor. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By the 1830s, however, the Carondelet Canal faced competition from a new uptown venture. Based in part on the American/Creole rivalry that defined much of New Orleans’ history in the first decades of the nineteenth century, the New Basin Canal, the turning basin of which lay in the “American” district of New Orleans, began to outpace the Carondelet, now referred to somewhat derisively as the Old Basin Canal. Though it lost a good deal of commerce to the upstart, the Carondelet Canal and its turning basin (between Toulouse and St. Louis on what is now Basin Street) remained significant to New Orleanians as the main harbor for unloading oysters.

A lugger loaded down with oysters in the turning basin in the early twentieth century. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

After the turn of the twentieth century, the Carondelet Canal was viewed as obsolete. Larger ships and the construction of newer canals had diminished the buzzing commerce that had been its hallmark for the first three decades of the 1800s. In 1938 the canal was filled in and the city overtook the gaps in the grid that the canal had previously occupied. Few traces of the original Carondelet Canal remain, though at least one urban planning firm has proposed bringing it back as a recreational waterway.

The American Competitor: The New Basin Canal

As mentioned above, the New Basin Canal was excavated to compete with the Carondelet. Completed in 1838 (just two years after the American/Creole rivalry prompted the breaking up of the city government into three semi-autonomous municipalities), the canal was meant to strengthen commerce in the American section of the city. The New Basin Canal could accommodate larger boats than the Carondelet, but its most important contribution to commerce and the growth of the Second Municipality was through the lumber industry. Uptown New Orleans was built with New Basin Canal cypress. The path of the canal opened up new areas of the Bald Cypress backswamp between the city and the lake, primarily in the area that is now the Lakeview neighborhood. Nearly forty years after the opening of the canal, the 1883 Robinson Atlas (which I strongly encourage you to check out if you are interested to see the historic path of both the New Basin and Carondelet Canals, or if you are inclined to lose a few hours pondering the New Orleans of the 1880s) shows the New Basin Canal lined with lumberyards and sawmills. In the blocks near the turning basin of the canal, at Rampart and Julia, it seems there was no other business.

The turning basin of the New Basin Canal as depicted in the 1883 Robinson Atlas. Located at Julia and Rampart, much of what is seen in this map is now covered by Loyola Avenue and the Superdome.

The New Basin Canal, however, shared the same fate as the Carondelet. By 1923, the new Industrial Canal in the Ninth Ward, with its capacity for much larger ships and locks connecting it directly to the lake and the river, made the New Basin Canal obsolete. The canal was filled in gradually, and it was not until the construction of the Pontchartrain Expressway in the 1950s that the bulk of the canal disappeared. The last segment of the canal, at its confluence with the lake, was preserved, and with the West End it makes up what could be called the marina district of New Orleans. Today the canal provides moorage for small craft, and is flanked by the Southern Yacht Club (which established its permanent headquarters there in 1880; founded in 1849, the Southern Yacht Club is the second oldest organization of its kind in the United States) and the New Canal Lighthouse.

The New Canal Lighthouse in 1906. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The lighthouse at the entrance to the canal was rebuilt several times since the canal’s opening in 1838, with the current lighthouse having been built in 1890. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, it remained an active Coast Guard post until 2002, when the Coast Guard relocated to a newer facility in Bucktown. Hurricane Katrina knocked the lighthouse off its foundation in 2005, but fortunately the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation rescued the historic building. The organization most are familiar with through its “Save Our Lake” campaign had been seeking to adopt the lighthouse as early as 1999, when the Coast Guard first announced that it would be retired. Restoration work began in 2008, and the lighthouse is set to open as a museum and education center in 2013.

Further reading: Richard Campanella, Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans, Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2008.

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An Unwanted Monument: The Controversial Liberty Place Obelisk

Today I encountered a problem somewhat common to those writing history: just as I was finalizing my post on the historical memory of the Liberty Place monument in New Orleans, I found someone who had written a fairly similar post, and not two months earlier. Rather than scrap my post all together, I did some editing and added some additional information, which I hope readers will find interesting. I happened upon this blog, which I encourage you to check out if you are interested, because I was looking for this picture in particular:

Photo credit: Matt Toups, via nolatourguy.com.

The act of vandalism seen above was successful in robbing a white supremacist of a potent photo-op, but it is also emblematic of just how divisive a physical remnant of our past can be. Erected originally with political reasons in mind, the Liberty Place monument has remained a flashpoint of controversy, much more so than other monuments built in the heyday of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, a cultural and political movement that not only venerated the ideals and legacy of Confederate veterans, but also fueled the success of Bourbon Democrats who meticulously undid the civil rights protections afforded to black citizens during Reconstruction. For these reasons, the monument represents much more than just its namesake event.

 The Battle

The “Battle” of Liberty Place was essentially a coup in which the White League of New Orleans deposed the state’s Republican governor by force. The 1872 election cycle, like many during the period, was one fraught with accounts and allegations of voter fraud and intimidation at the polls. In the gubernatorial contest, both the Republicans and Democrats declared their side the victor (though it is hard to imagine a legitimate Democratic victory at a time when a significant percentage of the black vote was needed to win office), creating a stalemate that drug on for two years. In rural Louisiana, branches of the White League perpetrated the Colfax and Coushatta massacres to ensure the recognition of Democratic candidate John McEnery. Rather than pursuing such outright violence, assassination, and mayhem to claim the election, the White League in New Orleans organized an impromptu army on the morning of September 14, 1874 to seize the government of Louisiana itself. The battle was reminiscent of the Civil War, with units of the White League engaging a defensive, racially integrated State Militia and Metropolitan Police force. Hours into the fighting, the White League was able to flank their opponents and seize the Cabildo (still the seat of government at the time) and Arsenal. The Republican governor elect, William Pitt Kellogg, and General James Longstreet, commander of the militia and police force in the battle, took refuge in the federal customhouse, a building that the White League was rightfully wary of taking by force. Three days later, federal troops arrived in New Orleans and the White League capitulated. As with the Lost Cause movement’s later reinterpretation of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the White League found a way to interpret their surrender to federal forces as a moral victory.

Lost Cause

The 1880s and 1890s were a period of celebration for Confederate heroes and ideals, as their 1865 defeat became a distant memory after the end of federal Reconstruction. The cultural and political movement referred to as the Lost Cause of the Confederacy redefined the Civil War experience, and in doing so erased from the public consciousness the defeat of the Confederacy and emphasized victory over black politicians and the federal imposition of civil rights protections. In 1889, the United Confederate Veterans organization was founded in New Orleans, growing steadily into a large, national organization by the turn of the twentieth century and becoming a strong force for redefining the South’s relationship with the Civil War. Monuments were also constructed on a grand scale. Tivoli Circle became Lee Circle; Jefferson Davis (who was temporarily interred in Metairie Cemetery after his death in New Orleans) and P.G.T. Beauregard were commemorated with statues as well. But the 1891 monument to Liberty Place is different: it does not honor a gallant warrior or statesman who served a lost cause, instead it commemorates a victory that was seen by many white New Orleanians as the de facto, if not official, end of Reconstruction. To those on the losing side of the Democratic takeover of government after Reconstruction, the black citizens who saw their civil rights disappear in successive redrafts of the state constitution, the monument memorializes the beginning of Jim Crow.

The original location and appearance of the Liberty monument at the foot of Canal Street. Photo credit: The Times Picayune.

 The Monument is Updated

In 1934, the Liberty obelisk received the first of many updates. Perhaps feeling that the monument’s inscription was not explicit enough, city leaders (specifically “The Ring,” also known as the Regular Democrats, a conservative political machine that ran New Orleans for several decades) added an amendment to emphasize exactly what the monument commemorated. An inscription was added to the monument that read: “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election in November 1876 recognized white supremacy and gave us our state. McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant governor by the white people, were duly installed by the overthrow of the carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers Gov. Kellogg (white) and Lt. Gov. Antoine (colored).”

By the 1970s, however, New Orleans and the nation were changing. In 1974 the plaque below was placed nearby the monument, though many in the city wished that the monument itself would simply go away.

The text of this plaque, erected to give the Liberty Place monument greater context, is rather interesting. Photo credit: The Times Picayune.

In 1981, Dutch Morial, the city’s first black mayor, ran into opposition in his attempt to have the monument taken down and instead had it surrounded by tall shrubs and the 1934 addition covered with a slab of granite. In 1989, street repairs and the construction of a shopping center forced the monument’s relocation to a storage facility, where many in city government hoped to keep it indefinitely. However, in 1991 a David Duke supporter grew impatient with the city’s lack of energy in seeing the monument reinstalled. Since federal funds had been used in the street improvements, the law stipulated that the historic monument be returned to a historically accurate location.

 Enter David Duke: The 1993 Rededication

It is impossible to discuss the events of 1993 without an understanding of David Duke’s role in the controversy, and the role of the monument in his career. David Duke’s entrance into state politics was an embarrassment to many in Louisiana, though it is important to note that however controversial, many Louisianans also repeatedly voted for him throughout his brief political career. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Duke’s family moved quite a bit before settling in Louisiana. During his college years at LSU, from 1968 to 1974, Duke became active in the Klan and frequently appeared on campus in his Nazi uniform. After several unsuccessful attempts to enter politics as a Democrat on the state and national level (Duke participated in the New Hampshire presidential primary), and amid accusations of mismanaging Klan funds, Duke began to change in the late 1970s. Lawrence N. Powell gives an excellent biography of Duke up to 1992 in Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, The Holocaust, and David Duke’s Louisiana (2000), including this interesting description of Duke during his post-plastic surgery metamorphosis:

“Duke’s narcissism added to his growing list of internal enemies. For the finale of a 1979 Klan National Leadership Meeting in Metairie, the Grand Wizard came on stage Bare-chested and clad in shorts and started lifting weights to show off his new physique. ‘It was all people could do to avoid laughing,’ said [an attendee]. A few years earlier, under the  pseudonyms James Konrad and Dorothy Vanderbilt, Duke authored a “sexual self-help book” for women called Finders Keepers, crammed with helpful advice about vaginal contraction exercises, oral and anal sex, and adultery. Steeped in traditional puritanism, the Klan movement was scandalized.”

A rightward shift in the Republican Party provided a coded language that brought racial undertones to social issues, which Duke adapted to easily. Duke left the Democratic Party for the Republican, and won a seat in the Louisiana legislature with the aid of generous out of state contributors such as the Liberty Lobby, a white supremacist organization. In 1991, Duke capitalized on the Republican Party’s swing to the right to take the Republican nomination for governor from the moderate incumbent, Buddy Roemer. In the gubernatorial race, Duke was pitted against the chronically corrupt Edwin Edwards (one Duke opponent printed bumper stickers that read, “Vote For the Crook. It’s Important.”). Despite winning a large portion of the white vote (55%), Duke lost his bid for governor, just as he had with his runs for Senate and President. He attempted to compete in the 1992 Republican presidential primaries, but by 1993, Duke was in danger of losing the limelight.

When a supporter of his sued the city for the replacement of the Liberty monument, Duke seized the opportunity to return to the headlines. Beginning in 1991, the city council had been working with state preservation officials to find a less prominent location for the monument. Negotiations were deliberately slow, as the majority of the council had little interest in restoring the monument. The council dealt with three contingents: historic preservationists insisted on an historically accurate location, Duke’s supporters argued for a prominent location and the return of the 1934 “white supremacy” inscription, and a large number of citizens, black and white, sought ways to circumvent the federal law that required the Liberty monument’s restoration. The location the council eventually settled on, at the foot of Iberville Street, remains in the area of the actual Battle of Liberty Place, but is also almost hidden from view, being tucked into a small public space between a parking lot and the flood wall, behind a parking garage. As part of the monument’s restoration to its new location, a plaque was placed nearby listing the names of the Metropolitan Police casualties, both black and white.

David Duke held a rededication ceremony for the Liberty monument in its new location on March 3, 1993. Avery Alexander, a veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and a state representative, led a group of monument opponents to disrupt Duke’s rededication. In the heated scuffle that started when Alexander approached the monument, four members of Alexander’s contingent were arrested, and Duke’s ceremony continued.

Avery Alexander being placed under arrest (or more accurately, in a choke-hold) after attempting to interrupt Duke’s rededication ceremony. Photo credit: The Times Picayune.

Duke attempted to use the Liberty monument once more, this time in 2004. Returning to the area from his home in Austria, Duke was hosting a white supremacist leadership conference at an airport hotel in nearby Kenner, and announced his plans to return to the Liberty monument for a rally and speech. The night before Duke’s planned appearance, the monument was vandalized (see first photo above), and the event was cancelled.

The Monument Today

Though sequestered to an inconvenient, diminutive location, the Liberty Place monument remains highly politicized. In the spring of 2012, the Liberty monument, along with the monuments to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, were spray-painted with the names of three black youths, two who were recently killed by police officers in New Orleans, and Trayvon Martin, who had been killed in Florida. Talk of removing the monument completely has quieted, and few other solutions to the problem of an unwanted monument remain (no museum is interested in acquiring it). Despite the controversy, simply removing this monument to the White League, the Bourbon Democrats and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy does little to rectify the heritage of disenfranchisement that was these movements’ most lasting contribution to Louisiana society and politics. As a historian, I am inclined to not want to erase or obscure any past event, but to hope that the memory and understanding of uncomfortable truths only helps to inform a better future. Therefore, I am satisfied, in some ways, with the monument’s current location: between the train tracks, flood wall, and a parking lot, behind a parking garage. That the monument is still standing gives passers by the opportunity to see evidence of an 1874 coup that eventually resulted in the undoing of civil rights protections for black Louisianans, not as a celebratory memorial, but, hopefully, as a warning. However, I admit that the Battle of Liberty Place, the motivations of the White League, and the Democratic takeover of Louisiana in the late 1870s are more than a few steps away for the passer-by who asks, “Hey, what’s that?” on their way back from the aquarium.

Overall, there are no simple solutions to the problem of an unwanted monument. To take it away completely obscures a physical remnant of our past; to leave it provides an attention seeking few with an opportunity to exploit its remaining symbolic power. This is one post where I would really appreciate your comments. Do you think the Liberty Place Monument should be returned to storage indefinitely, or do you think it should remain in its current location? Furthermore, do you think such monuments can serve as reminders of controversial events without being politicized in the present? Please let me (and everyone else) know! I would also be interested to start a conversation on the installation of a companion monument that would give greater context to the Liberty Obelisk.

Further Reading:

James Gill, Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans, Oxford: University of Mississippi Press, 1997; Lawrence N. Powell, “Reinventing Tradition: Liberty Place, Historical Memory, and Silk-stocking Vigilantism in New Orleans Politics,” Slavery and Abolition, Vol. 20, No.1 (1999); Lawrence N. Powell, Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke’s Louisiana, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

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Café des Exilés #1: Jean Joseph Amable Humbert

One aspect of New Orleans history that never ceases to attract my attention is the city’s nature for drawing in, and often celebrating, outsiders. Always a city of complexity and compromise, the dynamics at play in New Orleans have made it an attractive home for those who don’t seem to belong anywhere else. From revolutionaries and privateers to writers and artists, this series (which takes its name from George Washington Cable’s 1879 short story of the same title) will consist of biographical sketches of interesting characters that made their home in New Orleans, at least for a time. In this first installment, I present to you General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert.

Image

The turn of the eighteenth century was an exciting time in the New World, brimming with the high ideals of republican revolution. The violence of what would come to be known as the Haitian Revolution sent thousands of refugees to New Orleans, and as revolutionaries plotted the overthrow of colonialism throughout Latin America, the Gulf of Mexico teemed with privateers, many outfitted in Barataria, south of New Orleans. While the brothers Lafitte are the most famous, Renato Beluche, who served as an admiral for Simón Bolívar, and Louis-Michel Aury, who sailed for Cartagena, are better examples of true privateers. Responding to the plans of New Orleans-based revolutionaries and filibusters were Spanish diplomats and spies who found ample reason to keep tabs on this newly American city. Later, Bonapartists in New Orleans would craft two separate schemes to bring the imprisoned emperor to North America. It was in this New Orleans that General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert found himself after leaving France in 1812.

Impressions of Humbert vary widely in secondary source material. While his service as a general in Napoleon’s army in France and subsequent invasion of Ireland (to attempt to free it from Britain) are clear and well documented, his reasons for coming to New Orleans and his activities in the city are not. First there is the frustrated, out of place and purpose Humbert. Some sources paint Humbert as a true republican revolutionary who fought for democracy in France and Ireland, but became disgusted with Napoleon’s imperialistic inclinations when sent to assist in putting down the revolution in Saint Domingue (Haiti). According to this interpretation, Humbert found himself afoul of the emperor, and made his way to New Orleans to spend his days drinking, denouncing Napoleon in the face of the city’s Bonapartists, and drunkenly singing “Le Marseillaise” in the street. This caricature is dismissive of key elements of Humbert’s life in New Orleans, however it seems certain that he was a drinker.

When the British threatened invasion of New Orleans in 1814, General Andrew Jackson found in Humbert the only resident of the region who actually had command experience on a European battlefield, and against the British no less. Humbert became a trusted advisor of the American general, personally scouting approaches to New Orleans after the British made landfall and volunteering for any dangerous assignment Jackson could muster. Jackson’s decision to place Humbert in charge of batteries on the west bank of the Mississippi was an unpopular one among American officers. On the day of the battle, Humbert, dressed in his French uniform, with little command of the English language, proved unable to convince the Kentucky volunteers to improve their defenses. Humbert crossed the river to complain to Jackson, and soon after the British overran the Kentuckians’ position. After the Battle of New Orleans Humbert went back to his old habits: whiling away the day with dominos and brandy until his death in 1823. There is, however, more to Humbert than that.

In The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf, William C. Davis’ 2005 work on the Laffites and privateering in the Gulf of Mexico, Davis differs from other sources in his treatment of Humbert. In this narrative, Humbert is not a dejected former general, but an active agent sent to the United States with the emperor’s blessing for the purpose of fomenting a revolution in Mexico. Humbert first travelled to Philadelphia in 1812 to make contacts with like-minded revolutionaries who had led abortive attempts to liberate Texas and Mexico in the past. In Philadelphia Humbert met Juan Mariano Buatista de Picornell y Gomila, a Spanish revolutionary who had previously organized a brief insurrection in Venezuela. Humbert travelled to New Orleans in 1813 to organize an army that would invade Texas and begin a Mexican insurrection against Spain from the North down. Picornell gave Humbert a commission as general of the Republican Army of the North, and Humbert was successful in working with Baratarian privateers to coordinate the supply and reinforcement of his land army by way of the Texas coast. The entire invasion, however, was scuttled when Spain’s leading spy in New Orleans, Father Antonio de Sedella (known in New Orleans as Père Antoine) informed Spanish authorities in Havana of the plot.

Despite this setback, Humbert continued working with revolutionaries in Philadelphia and New Orleans to invade and liberate Texas from Spain until at least 1816. According to this account, a more energetic and forceful Humbert was constantly at work while in New Orleans, and perhaps served Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans as an opportunity for adventure, or, more importantly, as another opportunity to take on a hated imperial foe, taking a break from plans of challenging Spain for a rematch with Britain. While this interpretation varies from earlier descriptions of Humbert’s time in New Orleans by casting him as a key player in the shadowy society of filibusters, revolutionaries, and spies in the city, it finds its end in the same place. When Humbert died in New Orleans in 1823, it had been after 7 years without command or adventure, and his death had been a result of his drinking.

Personally, I enjoyed this opportunity to get what I’ve learned about Humbert so far down on paper, and I must add that further research on the French general is needed. Numerous secondary sources record that Humbert was employed at some point as a teacher in New Orleans, and I would like to find out where, for how long, and in what subject. I am also suspicious, given his republican leanings, that Humbert may have been involved in New Orleans’ vibrant community of Freemasons, and would like to learn who he might have come into contact with, or if he had any influence, in that context.

Further reading: William C. Davis, The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf, New York: Harcourt Inc., 2005; Winston Groom, Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans, New York: Vintage Books, 2006. Jane Lucas de Grummond, Renato Beluche: Smuggler, Privateer, and Patriot, 1780-1860, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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A New Venture

The idea of starting a New Orleans history blog is one that, I admit, should have come to me sooner. After completing a Masters in U.S. Social and Cultural History, writing my thesis on the broad topic of cultural and political change in New Orleans from Reconstruction to the turn of the twentieth century, I dove headlong into a new research project. I’m still currently working on my first post-thesis paper, an analysis of participants in the Robert Charles Riots of 1900 (and will be sure to provide updates here). However, the nature of doing research on New Orleans through my county library in Portland, Oregon has meant long waits for essential microfilm. This isn’t the worst problem one could encounter, but it has delayed my planned submission dates. As I continue to work on that project, and surely the one after it, I wanted to provide myself an outlet to continue my writing and inquiry of New Orleans history in a more informal way. Hence, Lagniappe and Other Essentials, where I will be updating frequently with sketches, explanations, stories, and biographies on a variety of New Orleans topics of interest to both my readers and myself.

A note on the name: I chose Langniappe and Other Essentials partly out of my love of the word lagniappe, its relation to the wide-ranging focus of the writing to follow here, and because the innate paradox of the above phrasing had a certain ring that just felt right. For those who don’t know, lagniappe is a word of Quechua origin that found its way to New Orleans during the Spanish period and was Gallicized into the familiar term we know today. It means a little something extra, like a favor, or as Mark Twain explained in Life on the Mississippi, “It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.”

For something extra, or even unexpected, to be included in the same breath as essentials, for me at least, gets close to expressing the convivial nature of New Orleans (and South Louisiana to a greater extent) culture. Beyond stereotypes of Southern hospitality, I’ve found that New Orleanians really want visitors, acquaintances, and friends to understand their city. That is one reason why you might never meet a New Orleanian who doesn’t make a point of correcting a misconception about their city (usually in terms of what Mardi Gras is really like) or who doesn’t take a moment to explain that New Orleans isn’t really part of the South, or belongs more in the Caribbean, or that most buildings in the French Quarter are Spanish, or, for better or worse, that New Orleans is more complex than one might think it is. I believe these bits of lagniappe are essential, as essential as any stray information that helps to foster an understanding of why New Orleans’ food, music, culture, politics, or history are more than unique, but key to understanding the region and the country as a whole.

I hope you will enjoy reading Lagniappe and Other Essentials as I continue to write new posts, and I want to also encourage readers to respond to my posts with questions or comments as they see fit. I am similarly open to using my general knowledge and research abilities to try to field any questions on New Orleans history you might have that may be unrelated to any posts I’ve included so far. Thanks for your attention, and wish me luck!

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